Life's Little Mysteries

Does Cold Weather Cause Colds?

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"Put a coat on! You'll catch your death of cold!"

Sound familiar? Folklore and worried mothers have for centuries assured us that playing outside with damp hair and summer shorts will surely be the end of us. Sorry, Mom, science said I could. There is no conclusive evidence that cold temperature increases our chances of catching one of the 200-plus viruses that cause the infection. Imagine the chicken soup sales in Greenland if it did.

[Got a question? Send us an email and we'll look for an expert who can crack it.]

Colds spread when you blow, wipe or sneeze the virus from your nose to another [Tip: Wash your hands! ]. Although a weakened immune system will increase the virus's chance of survival, temperature doesn't affect immune system strength. The common cold is commonest in winter because the harsh weather prompts people to stay indoors, where ventilation is restricted and proximity to infected friends and family members is increased.

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